There is no doubt that 3D is going to be the way of the future when it comes to software as we have already seen with XGL in Linux. Windows seems to be falling behind in that respect, but there is a free program available to Windows users that offers a unique minimizing effect to the programs currently running on your computer.
The free program that I’m talking about is called Mandotate, and is found over in the Neowin forums (download mirror). The program, which was made available nearly 3 years ago, has begun to resurface as a popular freeware application. One thing that you should note before trying it out is that there is no installation of the program required, however, it does need you to install a registry key by double-clicking on the install.reg file that’s included. This registry setting is used to save your settings for the program.
So what does Mandotate do? It is similar to the Project Looking Glass in some sense, and is essentially another alternative to minimizing your computer. When you have it running there will be a button with a trapezoidal shape next to a window’s minimize button:
After you press that button is when the magic happens. Windows will begin to angle themselves so that you can easily see what lies behind them. You can then drag them around and reposition them so that they are exactly where you want them:
As you drag windows closer to the middle of the screen they will get thinner and thinner until they essentially disappear. You can kinda see this happening in the screenshot I took above, where the bottom Firefox window is “thicker” than the one located above it. Even though the windows may disappear there will still be the little tabs that stick out which make it easy to identify which windows are which.
So what have I noticed bad about the program? I have had it crash on “minimizing” certain programs which kinda sucks, but it doesn’t crash my whole computer or anything. I just see an error box popup in some other language and I press OK which closes the application. The other thing that I have noticed which is very annoying is a shadow box that shows up around the title box for the “minimized” window. Sometimes even after returning the window back to normal the shadow still appears, and I haven’t figured out a way to get rid of it besides restarting the computer. Those little tags can be disabled though, which is what I have done. I am running this on Vista which isn’t mentioned as a supported operating system and could be my problem, but it is still really cool.
I am hoping that a similar application will eventually emerge that uses Vista’s Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). If that happened then we would probably be able to see live previews of applications as they were angled, such as watching a movie play. In order to take advantage of any program using WPF will require that you have a graphics card capable of running Aero. As Vista gets more popular we will surely see WPF applications popping up left and right, and I am anxious to see what ideas developers can come up with that really showcase the power Vista harnesses.